In Bureaucracy, Business, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics on April 23, 2013 at 12:01 am

Ted Cruz voted against federal aid for victims of Hurricane Sandy–three times.

But the United States Senator from Texas quickly announced he would seek “all available resources” to assist victims of the April 17 explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, McLennan County, Texas.

The blast killed 13 people, wounded about 200 others, and caused extensive damages to surrounding homes.

Last October, Hurricane Sandy killed about 150 people and caused an estimated $75 billion in damage across the Northeast.

The Republican legislator stood foursquare against the Sandy Aid Relief bill, claiming that it was loaded with “pork”:

“Hurricane Sandy inflicted devastating damage on the East Coast, and Congress appropriately responded with hurricane relief,” said Cruz.

“Unfortunately, cynical politicians in Washington could not resist loading up this relief bill with billions in new spending utterly unrelated to Sandy.

“Emergency relief for the families who are suffering from this natural disaster should not be used as a Christmas tree for billions in unrelated spending, including projects such as Smithsonian repairs, upgrades to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration airplanes, and more funding for Head Start.

“This bill is symptomatic of a larger problem in Washington–an addiction to spending money we do not have. The United States Senate should not be in the business of exploiting victims of natural disasters to fund pork projects that further expand our debt.”

Another Republican, Rep. Bill Flores, who represents West,  McLennan County, also voted against the Sandy relief package.  But this didn’t stop him from requesting federal aid for the disaster in his home district.

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas)

But, according to PolitiFact, “A big portion of the $17 billion in ‘immediate’ assistance, more than $5 billion, went to replenish FEMA’s disaster relief fund, which may fund relief from future disasters.”

Furthermore, Rick Ungar, writing at Forbes, pointed out that the “pork” came from having to bribe red state Republicans–including Texas–to get the package passed over their filibuster:

“However, as it turns out, the pork portions of the Senate bill were not earmarked to benefit Democratic members of the upper chamber of Congress….

“The answer can be found in a quick review of the states that are set to benefit from the Senate’s extra-special benevolence—states including Alabama, Mississippi, Texas and Louisiana.”

In fact, according to a September 29, 2011 article in iWatch News: Texas had the most FEMA-declared disasters since the start of 2009:

“Eleven Republican U.S. senators who represent the states with the most FEMA-declared disasters since the start of 2009 voted against a bill designed to keep the agency’s disaster relief fund from running out of cash.”

“The top two states, Texas and Oklahoma, combined for more than a quarter of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s declared disasters since Jan. 1, 2009.”

Click here: As FEMA funds run out, senators from states with most disasters oppose funding bill  The Center for Public Integrity

Yet the hypocrisy doesn’t end there.

“The nation’s number one resource is its workers,” said Keith Wrightson, safety expert at Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group. “But the agency that’s charged with protecting them is not given the resources to do it. I think it’s worrisome for the nation.”

The West Fertilizer Company facility hadn’t been inspected by the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) since 1985, when the company was fined $30. Why did the facility go for almost 30 years without further inspections from OSHA?

As a small employer, the fertilizer facility may have been exempt from some forms of OSHA scrutiny.  Years ago, Congress attached a rider to agency funding that forbids OSHA to perform inspections of workplaces with 10 or fewer employees and whose industries have low injury rates.

Lawmakers reason that small businesses shouldn’t have to shoulder the same costs of compliance as larger ones.

But smaller worksites aren’t necessarily less dangerous.  According to safety advocates, small companies often  have fewer resources to invest in worker safety and, with less government oversight, even less incentive.

On April 20, the damning news broke in a Reuters story:

“The fertilizer plant that  exploded on Wednesday, obliterating part of a small Texas town  and killing at least 14 people, had last year been storing 1,350 times the amount of ammonium nitrate that would normally trigger  safety oversight by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).”

Explosion at as fertilizer plant in West, McLennan County, Texas

Yet a source told Reuters that West Fertilizer, the company that owns the plant, did not tell DHS about the potentially explosive fertilizer as it is required to do.

The DHS is a major regulator of ammonium nitrate–which can also be used in bomb making.  Thus, it was left totally unaware of the potential danger posed by the plant..

Fertilizer plants and depots must report to the DHS when they hold 400 lb or more of the substance. Filings this  year with the Texas Department of State Health Services, which  weren’t shared with DHS, show the plant had 270 tons of it on hand last year.

In short, this situation offers the ultimate combination of disaster-producing circumstances:

  • A state with lax regulation of corporate businesses.
  • A plant crammed full of highly explosive materials.
  • Hypocritical U.S. Senators callously ignoring the hardships nature inflicts on other states while greedily demanding the lion’s share of emergency resources for their own constituents.
  • A state–Texas–whose governor has openly threatened secession greedily sucking at the tit of the otherwise despised Federal Government.

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